Chapter 5 ~ Rigging
“Tell me again why I need to know about these,” Justin complained.
Namid gave him a borderline patient look. “As I have explained the last fifteen times, Captain, you need to understand the dangers your crew members face and not all of them come from an enemy ship. Many diseases can be avoided by proper food and cleanliness,” Namid explained yet again. “Besides, you can’t treat something the right way if you don’t know what it is.”
“Right, but isn’t that what you’re here for?” Justin questioned suspiciously, leaning back in his chair. He and Namid were sitting in the Great Cabin. Namid and Maath had taken it upon themselves to teach Justin all the ins and outs of being a captain, including the stuff Justin would have rather not known.
“No, I am your helmsmen. It just so happens that I know about these diseases and how to treat them. We really need a doctor on board.”
“A doctor? How I am supposed to get a doctor to join our crew?” Justin asked in disbelief.
Namid shrugged. “Well, most pirate crews steal them from the ships they attack,” was the amused reply.
Justin groaned. “That isn’t going to work.”
“No, probably not for us.”
“So I really have to learn this stuff?”
“Consumption?” Namid asked instead.
“Argh! Consumption is when he has a fever, doesn’t eat, has chest pain, and couches up blood. Um, there’s nothing you can really do about it. Hard to tell when you get it too, because it sneaks up on you. I’ve heard about that since I was on the streets.”
“Fine. You know about scurvy too then.”
Justin heaved a sigh and tried to think of what he had heard about the disease. “You loose your teeth, swell up, and get diarrhea.”
“What else?” Namid questioned.
“There usually is,” Namid replied with a smile.
“Good. They also have pale skin and ugly large spots, gums bleed easily, and you will get awful lethargic. Do you know what to do about it or what causes it?”
This time Justin shook his head negatively.
“Neither do I. Though the current cure theory is that it has something to do with what foods we eat. My guess is the stuff that’s hard to keep on the ships.”
“You mean everything fresh?” Justin questioned
“Basically, mostly fruits and vegetables I would guess.”
“But what am I suppose to do about that? We can’t keep large quantities of that on the ship.”
“We can keep smaller quantities and you can stress eating them when we reach port or take them from other ships.”
“And if we don’t, we lose crewmembers. Are any of these diseases not fatal?” Justin asked getting frustrated.
Namid laughed. “Some. Let’s see, we covered yellow fever and dysentery. Oh! You’ll like this one. Parrot’s disease.”
“Parrot’s disease? You must be joking.”
Nope, you will get a really high temperature, pneumonia, and rapid breathing. Once you go down with that either you get better in a few weeks or you don’t.”
“Nice, another one you can die by. Why parrot’s disease?”
“Because ships that have lots of parrots tend to get it. At least, I believe that is the trend.”
“No parrots. Ever,” Justin declared.
Namid laughed. “They follow the ships. You don’t always have a choice.”
“You mean we can stop ships from chasing us, but we can’t do anything about birds? What is wrong with that picture?”
“Fine, what else?” Justin asked.
“I think that’s enough for today. You managed to learn quite a bit. We’ll see how much you remember in a week.”
Justin groaned. “We have to go through this again?”
“Until you remember it without me reminding you. You need to be able to recognize these things if you want to be a good captain.”
“There is way too much to remember. I’d rather be doing stuff.”
“Oh, you will. But lessons first. Just remember to study and you’ll be fine,” Namid encouraged.
“Sure. Study away. Can we go hit a ship now?” Justin practically pleaded.
“If you can find one,” Namid said with an amused smile.
“Watch me!” Justin cried already halfway out the door. He could still hear Namid laughing behind him when he reached the top of the steps.
Stacia scowled at Justin from across the room. Justin figured he hadn’t seen a scarier face on any of the pirates he faced and at the moment he doubted he ever would. He sat on the couch and waited silently for Dabria and Salena to enter the room and save him. Stacia had met him at the door and had been glaring at him ever since. He thought he was going to have to physically remove Dabria and Salena from the house, but she had at least sent for the two girls. The fifteen minute wait so far had seemed like eternity. Justin clenched and unclenched his fist in an attempt to keep himself from jumping out of the chair.
“Captain Justin! You’re back!” Dabria burst into the room with Salena on her heels.
Justin turned to the ecstatic girl and smiled. “Just like I promised.”
“Yep! Are we leaving right away?” Dabria asked with a smile.
“As soon as you are ready,” Justin replied.
“Oh good! We can be ready really soon! Come on, Salena, we have to pack!” Dabria cried and turned around.
“Dabria!” Stacia called in a scolding voice. “You father isn’t even here to give you permission to go. You are not leaving with this…. riffraff.”
“Ma’am, I am not riffraff. I am the Captain of a ship and a good friend of the Duke and Duchess,” Justin spouted.
Dabria smiled. “That’s right, Mom. He’s fine. We are going to pack. Be right back!”
Dabria and Salena were out the door, before Stacia could protest farther, but the tightness of her lips and her ramrod back let Justin know she was far from happy. He wished Dabria and Salena would hurry and get back before William showed up. That would only intensify the problem and Justin didn’t need the extra headache.
“You are never to touch my daughter, Captain. She has separate quarters away from you and all your unsavory men and if anything, and Captain, I do mean anything, happens to her, I will see to it that you are hunted down and brought to justice,” Stacia threatened in a low voice.
“She and Salena have always been treated with the utmost respect and chivalry, Mrs. Richerson. I would not have that stop now,” Justin said firmly.
Stacia nodded, but said nothing. It took Dabria and Salena a whole lot less time to pack than it did for them to arrive the first time. Within five minutes the two girls were back and announcing that their bags were being loaded onto the carriage Justin had commandeered for the trip. Justin jumped up and smiled at them.
“Great! Let’s head out.” Justin ushered the girls out rather quickly, calling over his shoulder, “Goodbye, Mrs. Richerson!”
The trip to the ship took about a half hour and Justin thought he had never been so happy to see the Guardian Star as he was right then. Once the girls and their things were on board, Justin ordered the cast off and the girls second full trip board his ship began.
~It’s as if they have never been on a ship before! ~ Justin thought, not sure if he was amused or not.
Dabria and Salena had once again explored every centimeter of the ship. They had taken the word curiosity to an entirely new level for Justin. They regularly spent time every day steering the ship with Namid and with the cook in the galley, which were the only times when he was sure where they were. The two girls had quickly taken over the hearts of most of the crew, so they were generally under someone’s watch.
Knowing this, Justin was doubly surprised to find Dabria alone in the hold one day. He hadn’t seen a crewmember above and wondered if anyone even realized she was down there. She was in the dark lighting search among the barrels intently and didn’t turn around when he came down the steps.
Justin frowned slightly when his eyes adjusted. The barrels she was searching between where not something a little girl should be into or anywhere near for that matter.
“Dabria, what are you doing?” Justin asked, coming up behind her.
Dabria jumped back and Justin had to react quickly to stop the girl from losing her balance. He waited until she was steady and then released her arms, but just enough to turn her towards him. He studied her tear-streaked face for a moment and then finally pulled her to the stairs, where he could see her better. But once there, he stood at a lose, unsure what he was suppose to do with a tearful eleven year old.
“Um what’s wrong?” He finally asked awkwardly.
“Nothing,” she said, sniffing and obviously trying not to cry again.
“You were crying, right?”
“Why?” he asked quickly.
Her eyes snapped to his and it took a moment to realize he probably sounded harsh. Her sighed and consciously erased the frown from his face.
“Dabria, I’m not upset with you. I just want to know what happened that has you searching barrels in the dark hold and with a tear stained face.”
Dabria reached up her hand and wiped her face, managing to transfer the dirt from her hand to her face. Justine wanted to laugh at the image she now presented, but somehow he held back and instead managed to remember the square cloth in his pocket. He pulled it out and gently placed in her hand. She looked at it for a moment as if confused, but then used it to wipe her face slowly.
She took a deep breath and explained, “Shal told me he kept a rapid dog down here for fighting. He said if he let the dog lose he’d come after Salena and I because he wouldn’t know our scent. Rapid dogs make you sick. I thought if I found him and fed him or something he wouldn’t hurt us. But I can’t find him and I think he might be stalking me,” she finished fearfully, never looking away from Justin’s face and taking a step closer to him.
~ Shal just got himself a walk off a very short plank. ~ Justin thought angrily. He sighed and pulled the shaking girl into a hug. Then he made sure he looked her in the eyes as he stated firmly, “Dabria, there are no rapid dogs on this ship. I wouldn’t allow them, especially with you and Salena on board. Okay?”
Dabria nodded. “I guess I shouldn’t have listened to Shal, but he sounded like he really meant it.”
“That won’t be a problem anymore,” Justin replied, thinking of exactly what he was going to do to the conniving rat.
Dabria gave him a questioning look, but he ignored it.
“There isn’t a rapid dog down here, but there are other things that you don’t need to be around, so try to find stuff to do above the deck, okay?”
“Okay,” she responded. It wasn’t until then that Justin realized she had really been scared, she hadn’t even asked what else she wasn’t supposed to find.
“Right. Let’s head up on deck,” Justin said, letting Dabria precede him up the stairs. It wasn’t until much later that day he realized he never had gotten what he had been looking for.
Justin breathed the deep sea in pure enjoyment. He loved this part of the day. It was just before sunset, there was a slight breeze, and while the deck was busy, it had a calm sense to it. He was the captain of his own ship and he ruled his world.
Justin jerked violently out of his thoughts and stared at the main deck. Salena was standing by the mast’s rigging and pointing practically straight up. Justin did not want to look up. When he did though, he saw exactly what he had been afraid of.
Justin let out a loud curse as he raced to the steps and pounded down them. Some of the crewmembers that had gathered moved out of his way, the others he pushed.
“How did she get up there?’
“I never saw her on the deck!”
“She’s not on the deck! She’s above it!”
“How did no one notice?”
“I was on the other side!”
“It’s not my fault!”
“How is she going to get down?”
“What if she falls?”
The crew’s cries were coming from all over as Justin came to a stop next to a very frightened Salena and looked up to Dabria who was halfway up the rigging to the crow’s nest.
“Dabria!” Justin’s voice rose loudly above the others, who immediately quieted down. “Get down here right now!”
“But I’m halfway there!” Her small voice called back down.
“Get your prime and proper but down here, before I shoot it down!” He yelled hotly.
“You don’t have to be so mean about it! I’m doing great!”
“I am not joking, Dabria! I want you down here now!” Justin didn’t want to admit he was terrified. It was a long way down from up there and there was nothing to catch her.
“How did she get up there?” Maath asked quietly appearing at his side.
“I just want her down,” Justin responded. “Then I’ll figure out who I’m killing.”
“We were talking in our cabin. She thought it would be fun to see everything from high up. I think I fell asleep, because she disappeared,” Salena managed to explain.
“The girl needs a constant watch,” Justin muttered. He was not amused to see that she had snuck up higher while the discussion had been going on. He had been terrified when he had first gone up at sixteen on a dare, even getting stuck. Tommy had come up after him and creatively gotten him down, while keeping his pride intact, but Dabria had no such fear. He really wished she did. “Dabria, down, now!”
Dabria stopped short at his yell and stood still.
She doesn’t know how to get down,” Inu observed.
~ Oh, right. ~ Justin thought. “Don’t swing, Dabria, just keep it steady. The trick to getting down is to feel the lines. Get a good grip with your hands and use your feet to find the rigging. Then let them guide you and do not look down. Careful, Dabria.” Every bone in his body demanded he go up and get her, but he was afraid the movement on the ropes would prove too much for her.
The crew seemed to collectively hold their breath as Dabria’s leg reached down to search for the rope below her. They released when her foot rested safely there. Her second foot found it much easer. She kept descending slowly. The trickiest part was when her first foot had to go down. Justin was amazed at how well she was doing. It was slow and she was extremely high up, but her footing was pretty sure.
“Captain Justin!” Dabria suddenly cried as her foot slipped.
Dabria had grabbed for the rope above her with her free hand, but missed, leaving her hanging on the rigging with only one hand. I n that moment Justin saw both of their lives flash before his eyes. Both lives were far too short.
“Dabria!” Justin responded, already halfway up to her. “Hold on!”
“Don’t swing. Hold still and grab on with your free hand,” Justin called instructions, even as he reached her.
She grabbed hold and he put his hand on her back to steady her. It was only then that he noticed Inu was on her other side.
“I have you, Dabria. Inu is going to guide your foot back, okay?”
She nodded and Inu gently took a leg and guided it to the closest rope. Once she had it, she was able to put her other foot there.
“Are you okay?” Justin asked.
Dabria nodded. “Can we go down now?”
The three proceeded down slowly. Maath reached up and steadied Dabria, while Justin and Inu stepped down. Justin quickly reached for Dabria and brought her to stand in front of him. She looked up at him with a grin, but his harsh frown quickly made her duck her head. Justin could feel himself shaking with anger.
“Was there any thought at all in your head?” Justin asked exasperated.
“You said to stay above deck…” Dabria’s voice trailed off quickly.
“That was not even close to what I meant and you know it. You could have been killed! You’re crazy!” The sight of the tears streaming down her checks didn’t stop his tirade. “You’d never see your sister again! Or me, she’d kill me too!” At this point Maath shooed the rest of the crew away, but Justin barely noticed. “You can’t do stuff like that! I’m serious, Dabria, you ever pull a stunt like that again and you will never step foot on my ship again. No more trips. Get to your cabin. You are staying there for the rest of the trip. You’re lucky it’s only half a day!”
Dabria covered her face with her hands and fled the scene with Salena just behind her. Maath put a calming hand on his shoulder, but Justin shrugged it off.
“That was harsh,” Maath said quietly.
“She could have been killed,” Justin’s voice still shook with anger and fear.
“But she wasn’t. Don’t look at me like that. You have every reason to be furious at her, but yelling like that in front of the crew was cruel,” Maath spoke firmly, but respectfully.
“She needed it!” He protested.
“Justin, you told her she’d never see her sister or you again,” Maath started, but Justin interrupted.
“I just meant her sister would kill me if anything happened to her.”
“I know that, but it was still harsh, especially to an eleven year old.”
“Well, how else am I supposed to handle her?” He asked frustrated and loudly.
“Not like that.”
“You are no help,” Justin growled.
Maath shrugged. “You’ll learn, Justin. It will take time, but you will learn eventually.”
Justin huffed and finally said, “Her sister can deal with her now. I’m going back to steering my ship. And she stays in the cabin.”
Maath looked at him silently for a moment, unreadable, and then headed towards the cabin. Justin took the helm back from Namid, who had wisely secured it during the confusion. He spent the next few hours to Triger in peace… well, except for his thoughts.